MAD DOG: Living at Your Own Risk

WARNING: Reading this article has been found to cause giggling, titters, guffaws or, in extreme cases, uncontrolled laughter in laboratory animals, test subjects, and the three people who own the entire library of "Ernest Goes to ... " movies.There. I'm off the hook. Now if any of those things should happen to you while reading this I can't be blamed, sued, or held harmless, which is good because if I'm going to be held at all I'd rather it be anything but harmless.You may think the idea of putting a warning label on this column is silly, but this is the 90's and I've got to protect myself. After all, I don't want to be responsible should an outbreak of laughter start and someone decides that I'm the cause. While I'm sure this is about as likely to happen as it is for Linda Tripp to win the Best Friend of the Year Award, it's still a possibility. After all, there was that outbreak that swept through Tanzania in 1962 which caused schoolgirls to giggle and weep with laughter for six months, resulting in the schools being shut down without a single snowflake falling. Imagine that.What brings all this to mind is something psychiatrists all over the country are finally starting to realize: legislators are going warning label crazy. There are already so many warning labels on products that by the time I finish reading them all I barely have time to use the product. Cigarettes can cause lung cancer, you shouldn't operate heavy machinery or drive while taking sleep aids, and if I stand above a certain step on my ladder I run the risk of falling and hurting myself. Duh!In California, where the state motto is about to be changed to "Don't Say We Didn't Warn You", signs are posted in bars alerting you to the dangers of drinking during pregnancy. Actually, this is a good thing, though they should go one step farther and warn that drinking alcohol can be a contributing factor in becoming pregnant in the first place.The new signs that showed up in California bars on January 1st are even better—they warn of the dangers of smoking on the premises. The thing is, it's not the smoke that's the danger, but the act of smoking. Do it and you could get slapped with a $100 fine.Not wanting to be outdone, the state house of representatives in South Dakota recently passed a bill that would add a warning to marriage letting you know that you have the right to live "free from violence and abuse" and that "neither of you is the property of the other." While a few other states have put similar warnings on marriage applications, this would be a first on the actual license. There's really nothing wrong with this, except that it doesn't go far enough. It should read:WARNING! Entering into this marriage may lead to an increase in weight, an inability to stop watching television, a decrease in your sex life, children, and divorce.What makes politicians think adding warning labels to everything will do any good? This is, after all, a country where reading is a dying art. It's also the country where three times as many people can name the Three Stooges as can name three Supreme Court Justices. (Hint: Manny, Moe, and Jack are NOT stooges.)There are, of course, places where warning tags would do a lot of good, but lawmakers don't seem to be concerned with them. Like on your TV, where it should say, "Not everything you hear on the news is true—especially about the Clinton sex scandal." That way we wouldn't have to wade all the way to page 5 of the newspaper to discover that the Dallas Morning News retracted the story about a Secret Service agent who was ready to testify to having seen President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky in a compromising situation, or that the Wall Street Journal retracted theirs about the White House steward who supposedly saw the same thing.So how do we stop this uncontrolled march of the warning label? Simple. With a warning label. This one printed in big, bold letters on every ballot this Election Day:WARNING! Voting may result in waste, overspending, increased taxes, inflation, recessions, and warning labels being slapped on anything that doesn't move and a few things that do.Then maybe we'd find out what would happen if they gave an election and nobody came.

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